Ewshot & Operation Cromwell Part 1

The rescue & recording of two Vickers gun emplacements


Ewshott Vickers Machine Gun Emplacements

Ewshott Vickers Machine Gun Emplacements

A sunny October morning in 2009 saw well known PSG members meet to start on “operation Cromwell, a project carrying out a study to uncover, record and renovate some of Ewshot’s many surviving pillboxes for hopeful long term survival.

The team included veterans Graham G Matthews and John Hellis; both had driven up very early from Dorset and Somerset to meet up with myself, Mike Hopton, Phil Riley and John Bennison.

The plan was to uncover a pair of badly overgrown Vickers machine gun emplacements that both sit on mod land at to Ridding’s copse at Ewshot in Hampshire.

After getting permission from the mod [de] and lease holder of the land, the project will involve accurately recording the defences for historical purposes as well as trying to conserve them for the future as a part of this areas unique military history.

The gun emplacements were badly surrounded by thick brambles along with plenty of scrub and nettles, this was removed with much hard work and effort by everyone and involved using a slasher, machete and pruners.

Because of the very rural location TPO regulations are in force and permission had to be obtained to remove offending growth and trees.

From the start we had made it our policy to leave everything neat and tidy, a fire was lit and all of the removed material was burnt in a controlled manner.

During proceedings we were visited by a retired high ranking army officer who had interesting recollections of seeing the defences being constructed as a young lad.

Half way through the day we stopped to sit down in the glorious sunshine, enjoying a bite to eat, a cold beer and few cups of hot tea [courtesy of Graham camping stove!].

After lunch the work on the second Vickers emplacement involved hacking through brambles nearly six feet deep, much of this was raked out and then placed on the fast consuming fire.

Both defences have survived relatively well over the last 69 years, even though some brick shuttering has fallen away in areas. Both boxes feature considerable blast walls protecting the entrances.

Internally the defences [at time of writing] are dry inside but each is prone to flooding, hopefully we can remedy this.

The roof tops still have the wartime grassed top as camouflage from the air, this was left alone as it is an important surviving detail.

After nearly eight hours working on site, both pillboxes were finally clear of their surrounding covering.

Thanks must go to those who came and helped on this very enjoyable and memorable “PSG” day.

A more detailed report can be found in the PSG loopholes magazine.

By Tim Denton

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Defence Structures and sites of all types both above and below ground can be very dangerous. Serious injury or even death can arise from unauthorised entry into such sites and structures. Join a responsible club, group or society who can arrange official visits. The Pillbox Study Group accepts no responsibility for any damages or injuries caused by ignoring this advice. The PSG does not encourage members to undertake the ad hoc clearance of vegetation from pillboxes, as it can expose them to physical damage and inappropriate use, it may also contravene a variety of statutory regulations including, listed buildings and SSSI designations. Vegetation clearance should only ever be undertaken as part of a formal arrangement, having sought and obtained permission from the land owner and other necessary authorities. Damaging a listed or scheduled monument can be considered as a Heritage Crime.

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